I’m trying a different approach to today’s post. I know most of you have busy lives and may not care about the dog and pony show I put on here. In honor of that, I will post my recipe with directions first, then go into my little story. However, if you are curious as to why I’ve chosen the specific ingredients, that info is included in the narrative below the recipe.
(makes an 8×8 pan of fudge)
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup FAT FREE milk – IF YOU MUST SUBSTITUTE, CHOOSE ONE THAT DOES NOT CONTAIN FAT
1 cup natural, no stir peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and milk. Bring mixture to a hard, rolling boil and allow it to boil for 2 full minutes. IMPORTANT: DO NOT START TIMING FOR THE TWO MINUTES UNTIL YOU HAVE REACHED A HARD, ROLLING BOIL. There is probably some temperature that needs to be reached here, but since I refuse to buy a candy thermometer I have no idea what that temperature is. All I know is, if you bring the stuff to a hard boil and then let it boil for two full minutes, the fudge turns out great. Be sure to stir often so the mixture doesn’t scald, or you’ll wind up with burnt flakes in your fudge, which tastes horrible (can you tell that’s an example of what experience has taught me?)
Remove the boiling mixture from heat, and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour this over the bowl of confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Pour into 8×8 dish and refrigerate until firm. Once the fudge is firm, you can cut it into squares and eat. Or if you are like me and impatient, you can take a nibble of the boiling hot fudge while it’s still kind of runny. If you plan on doing that, then make the fudge when you know you aren’t going to need your taste buds for about a week, because hot fudge burns the hell out of your tongue, the roof of your mouth, your lips, and any other body part it touches.
Use ¾ cup natural peanut butter and ¼ cup of a “flavored” peanut, like white chocolate, hazelnut, nutella, or other nut butter like almond butter, etc.
Ha ha! I said “nut butter”
Mix in fun stuff like nuts, M&M’s, crushed Oreo’s or any other item that trips your trigger
Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate over the top of the fudge (once firm), or put it on the bottom of the 8×8 pan before you pour in the fudge mixture to cool.
Let the narrative begin!
Making Christmas candy isn’t just a holiday tradition in my family, it is a requirement. It’s a stipulation. It’s a demand. Honestly, I cannot remember a Christmas without homemade peanut butter balls (aka buckeyes), haystacks, coconut bars, chocolate crisps, fudge, chocolate dipped pretzels and cookies, etc. As a child the only thing I loved more than eating it was helping my mamaw make them. It wasn’t one of those adult tricks, either. I was allowed to measure, pour, stir, work the mixer, decorate, everything. I never heard “you’ll make a mess” or “you’re too young to know how to do it right”, or even “you aren’t strong enough to beat the batter with a wooden spoon the way it needs to be done”. When it was candy making time, Mamaw would stack a few phone books on a kitchen chair like a homemade booster seat and I would be right along side of her, watching, helping and soaking it all in. I was never a “pesky child” during those precious times. I was her protégé, her equal, and although we never said it aloud in all of the 28 amazing Christmases I had the privilege of sharing with her, we both knew I would be the one to carry on the torch when the time came for her to exchange her worldly apron for one made of starlight and snowflakes. As you can tell from this post and the ones I’ve written before it, not only did I readily take that torch and run with it, but hopefully I did it in a way she would have been proud to be a part of. She’s been gone 11 long years, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. However, as the smell of melted chocolate, peanut butter, and fresh baked cookies permeate every nook and cranny of my house while the sound of jingling bells echo throughout the neighborhood, I know that she’s still right there, helping and guiding me as she’s always done.
Out of all the Christmas goodies, peanut butter fudge is by far my favorite. I came up with this little recipe by accident. I was talking with a few of my co-workers complained about loving the new “no stir” natural peanut butter, but hated that they couldn’t use it to make fudge. When someone tells me “you can’t” they basically are just throwing down the gauntlet, especially when the matter involves cooking. I think it has to do with my hard headedness and overwhelming desire to prove people wrong, or maybe I just like challenges. Who knows, and really, that’s not the point of this post anyway. When I got home, I whipped out my jar of natural peanut butter and my family’s best fudge recipe. I’m not gonna lie, it was an oil-slicked soupy mess. There was so much oil on the top of the fudge you would have thought I tried deep frying it. I poured off the oil, soaked up as much as I could with paper towels, and took a taste. Not a bright idea, let me tell you. It tasted pretty much the same way it looked, a greasy mess. I took a huge drink of my ice cold soda to get the taste out of my mouth, which resulted in mistake #2. If you thought plain old peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth horribly, imagine what oily peanut butter that’s been hosed down in icy liquid feels like. I could have caulked my tub or patched a pothole with the congealed oily peanut butter mess that had adhered like a barnacle to the roof of my mouth. I don’t give up that easily, so it was back to the drawing…err, cutting board for me.
I thought about what the issue was for a moment or two and then tried troubleshooting. I determined the issue was too much oil, and then I set out to reduce the oily stuff in hopes that it would reduce the oil pool on the finished product. Sounds easy, right? That’s what I thought too, until I omitted the butter, thinking that was the likely culprit. What I failed to consider was that changing ingredients changes the taste. Yes, I’m well aware that this observation is fairly obvious, but this was one of those moments where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Needless to say, batch #2 bit the dust, quite literally because it turned into an unformed powdery mess.
Since I don’t have the time, nor the desire, to spell out the various ways I ruined peanut butter fudge. Suffice it to say that some of the problems I had were: too dry, wouldn’t set up right, horrible taste, and all kinds of variations of those issues. But after 6 weeks and about a ton of peanut butter, I FINALLY had a winner. The troublemaker was the fat (duh), but it wasn’t the fat of the butter that was to blame. When the fat content of the fudge was reduced, the oil problem disappeared. I found out I didn’t have to reduce the butter in the recipe at all, I just needed to use fat-free milk. I’ve tried a few different types of fat-free milk, and for some reason the organic fat-free stuff works the best. Regular fat free milk works too, but the resulting product is a bit more wet than the organic version. So if you prefer creamy fudge, that’s the milk to use. If you prefer a “harder” fudge, go for the organic stuff.
I couldn’t wait to share the fudge with my coworkers along with a big dose of “never say never”. Unfortunatley, I spent so much time perfecting my recipe by the time they actually tried (and loved, btw) my fudge, they had absolutely no recollection of the “you can’t” conversation. Oh well, at least I knew I won, right? Yeah, I think that pretty much translates into a waste of time in my book, too, plus I gained 7 pounds taste testing all that crap. Double whammy. Hope you like the recipe and thanks for reading my blog!